[b-hebrew] Prophetic Perfect?

UUC unikom at paco.net
Tue May 18 13:15:05 EDT 2004

Dear Rolf,

>if one looks at the grammatical literature from Samuel Lee and to
the present, one will see that the prophetic perfect is an ad hoc

But isn't the concept of the "prophetic perfect" based on the assumption
that this is, indeed, a prophecy? You won't apply prophetic perfect to a
non-charged text, say, in a letter or on a jar, right?

Best regards,


> Dear Julie,
> Your thoughts below are logical and reasonable, and it is fine that
> you try to understand the subtleties of Hebrew grammar. The crux of
> the matter is the claim "sometimes regarded as having already been
> accomplished".  This is in a way a psychological statement, the
> grammarian(s) claim they know the mind of the writer. In order to
> substantiate such a claim, one has to point out that either this
> writer, or one writing in a similar way, has explicitly stated the
> case. Or, one has to point to a text, which, interpreted in a
> reasonable way, implies that this was the state of the mind of the
> author. To the best of my knowledge, this has never been done in any
> grammar or monograph!
> But if one looks at the grammatical literature from Samuel Lee and to
> the present, one will see that the prophetic perfect is an ad hoc
> claim.  A fine illustration is the geocentric view (the sun and the
> planets revolve around the earth) of the Church in the first
> millennium CE. Because God is perfect, the planets must revolve in
> perfect, spherical orbits around the earth was the view. However,
> observation revealed that sometimes the planets held positions above
> or below the perfect circle. But God was perfect, no doubt about
> that. Thus, the ad hoc hypothesis was formed that the planets went
> along in perfect spherical orbits, but at the same time they went
> along in perfect spherical orbits perpendicularly on the axis of
> their orbit around the earth.  Now everything became harmonious. God
> was perfect and the orbits were perfect. But no data was used t reach
> that conclusion!
>   The perfective perfect notion was originally built on the view that
> QATAL was past tense and /or signalled completed acts. Thus, it
> contradicted fundamental grammatical thoughts to have hundreds of
> QATALs with simple future reference. So, in order to save the grammar
> - but without any data - the psychological explanation was invented
> that the action was completed in the mind of the prophet. Please ask
> your constructor if he or she has any *data* showing that the QATALs
> of Isaiah 9:1,5 are not just simple futures.
> Best regards
> Rolf
> Rolf Furuli
> University of Oslo
> >Gentlemen,
> >
> >Perhaps we should look at Jouon-Muraoka on this point:
> >
> >"In prophecies a future event is sometimes regarded as having
> >already been accomplished, hence the use of qatal.  This prophetic
> >perfect is not a grammatical perfect, but a rhetorical device."
> >(The examples cited are Isa. 9.1, 9.5.)
> >
> >If we step back and consider these so-called prophetic perfects
> >within the frame which the author/redactor constructs, we find these
> >passages embedded within a larger discourse.  What JM calls a
> >rhetorical device is perhaps just a function of pragmatics.  My
> >instructor (if I correctly understood the lecture) asked our class
> >to consider the mode of prophecy itself.  (Assuming continuity of
> >Isa.)  Prophecy here comes in the mode of a Vision.  So, perhaps the
> >use fo the qatal is a function of the vision which was past, Isa 1.
> >
> >Thoughts,
> >
> >Julie :)
> >
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